Change of status from a B2 to an F1 Visa

Updated on January 5, 2024

At a Glance

  • Switching from a B2 visa to an F1 visa is possible through a change of status application.
  • To change status, submit Form I-539 and provide supporting documents, such as the I-20 form and financial documents.
  • If the change of status is denied, you may need to return to your home country and apply for a new F1 visa.
  • Consider the options carefully before choosing the best approach.

The United States immigration process is tough and competitive. On the other hand, it also allows you to switch between certain visas. Tens of millions of people apply for visas each year. The majority of them are tourists who come into the United States for a short period. They have the option of changing to a student visa if interested. In this article, we’ll explain how to change your visa status from B2 to F1 visa.

Switching From B2 Visa To An F1 Visa

Both B2 and F1 visas are categorized as nonimmigrant visas. Therefore, you can always switch from B2 to F1. But before that, let’s explore each visa in detail.

What is a B2 Visa?

The B2 visa is among the most common visas issued to non-immigrants. This is also known as the Visitor visa and allows individuals to enter the US and stay for a short, specific amount of time. This is mainly used for tourism, visiting your family and friends, or medical treatment purposes. Certain athletes and individuals coming in to attend social conventions are also granted a B2 visa.

This is temporary in nature with a validity of somewhere between 1 month to 10 years. After it has expired, you’re no longer permitted to stay in the US and have to return to your native country.

What is an F1 Visa?

 F1 Visa is for a certain group of international students who want to study in the United States. The enrollment can be in a university, college, high school, language training program, or any USICE recognized academic institution. After completion, you’ll get your certificate or degree from the institute and wish to carry on further if you want to.

F1 visas are valid until the duration of your course in most cases. There are other types of students visas, as well as the J and M visa. So, check which student visa type is suitable for your cause.

How to Change Status from a B2 to an F1 Visa?

Applying for Change of Status from B-2 to F-1

If you indeed entered the United States as a visitor with no intention of studying but later became interested in a study program, then you can apply for changing your visa status from visitor to student.

For this, you have to submit the change of status form, which is Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status. It is an 8-page form and will ask you about personal and immigration details. When filing it up, you need to keep in mind that you’re applying for a change and not an extension. So answer the questions accordingly. After completing the form, you can send it via mail.

You’re also required to submit appropriate documents along with the form. Some of them are:

  • Form I-20
  • Financial documents showing that you can afford your education
  • Proof you intend to leave the U.S. upon completing your studies

USCIS will determine your preconceived intent of study separately. If you’ve got any evidence supporting this, you can attach it too. These should briefly demonstrate how you develop your interest in studying after coming into the States.

B2 to F1 Change of Status Processing Time

Change of Status vs. Applying for a New F1 Visa

If USCIS determines you had a preconceived intent to study, then you’ll be denied the change of status.  So the option you’re left with is to go back to your country and apply for a new F1 visa from scratch. You’ll have to go through the entire process and get the necessary F1 visa. 

Depending upon the program you’re applying for, student visas are usually processed faster than USCIS processes your change of status. This is because there are very few verifications required in case of a new F1 visa than the ones involved in the change of status. Therefore, you need to weigh in your options carefully before adopting a particular method.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

1. How Can I Change My Visa Status from B2 to F1?

Changing your visa status from B2 (tourist visa) to F1 (student visa) in the United States is possible, but it involves a specific process. Here are the general steps:

  • Admission to a U.S. Student Program: You must first gain admission to a U.S. school or university that is authorized to issue the Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status.
  • Obtain an I-20 Form: Once accepted, your school will issue you an I-20 form, which you will need to complete.
  • File Form I-539: You will need to file Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This form is used to request a change of status.
  • Pay the Required Fees: Be prepared to pay the necessary application fees when submitting Form I-539.
  • Attend a USCIS Biometrics Appointment: USCIS may require you to attend a biometrics appointment to provide fingerprints, photographs, and a signature.
  • Wait for USCIS Decision: USCIS will review your application and make a decision. If approved, you will receive an approval notice and your change of status will be granted.
  • Enroll in School: Once your change of status is approved, you can enroll in your chosen educational program as an F1 student.

2. What Are the Eligibility Requirements for Changing from B2 to F1 Visa?

To be eligible for a change of status from B2 to F1 visa, you typically need to meet the following criteria:

  • You must be in the United States under a valid B2 visa.
  • You must have been admitted to a U.S. school or educational program.
  • You must not have violated the terms of your B2 visa status.
  • You must have the financial resources to support yourself during your studies.

3. Can I Study While My Change of Status Application Is Pending?

While your change of status application is pending with USCIS, you may not enroll in or attend classes until your change of status is approved. Engaging in studies before approval can jeopardize your immigration status.

4. How Long Does the Change of Status Process Take?

The processing time for a change of status application can vary, but it typically takes several months. It’s essential to apply well in advance of your intended program start date to allow for processing.

5. Can I Work While on an F1 Visa Obtained through a Change of Status?

F1 students in the United States can generally work under specific circumstances, such as on-campus employment, optional practical training (OPT), or curricular practical training (CPT). However, there are specific rules and restrictions regarding employment for F1 students.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.